“Why does he act so weird?” Ruby asks me. Ruby, Trey, Stan—my husband—and I went to brunch together that morning. I’d noticed her glaring at Trey throughout the meal.
“Who?” I ask stalling for time.
“Trey. Why does he act so weird?” she asks again.
“He isn’t acting.”
“He didn’t use to be like that.”
“When has that child ever been normal? You remembering some shit I don’t?” I ask trying to remember one normal day with Trey.
“He wasn’t that weird when he was little,” she declares.
“Oh, you mean when he was little and refused to wear Nikes to school? He had to have wingtips. Or when he wouldn’t wear t-shirts, only dress shirts? Or when he wouldn’t play with toys, but chose to copy the dictionary instead. Or do you mean when he wouldn’t play sports and was obsessed with chess? Yeah, I remember his normal period now.”
“Well, I want to have some kind of relationship with him and I can’t when he acts like a retard,” she says walking back into the bathroom to finish putting on her make-up. She posted a picture on facebook earlier today and got 362 likes in forty-eight minutes. Ruby is “normal”, but exceptionally so. She is the most beautiful normal thing this family has going for it.
“Then you don’t want a relationship with him, you want a relationship with the person you want him to be. When he isn’t that person you get mad at him for being who he is and not who you want. That is unfair.”
She doesn’t respond. I didn’t think she would. They are different. They have to love each other, but they don’t have to like one another. That is easy to say, but a difficult concept to actually practice. Especially when you are a beautiful princess and people pretty much do what you want most of the time.
He usually stays at our house on weekends. Then, on Sunday night, he will say, “Well, back to my real life,” and he will head out for another week. He will stay at his dad’s house, which is closer to his job, or at a friend’s house. When he arrived this Friday he said he paid rent to stay at a new place. His friend Simba lives with a couple who has a baby and they said he could crash there, too. Trey sells siding, roofs and windows door to door. He sold a lot this month, he is a great bullshitter, and thinks he will have enough money to rent a studio apartment soon.
So, on Fridays he comes to my house and I wash his clothes, he eats well and rests up for another week of survival. I am always worried when he leaves. I worry if he will have enough to eat and a safe place to sleep.
It’s 10:00pm on Sunday. Stan and I are watching TV. and relaxing. I hear a banging on the front door. It is loud and demanding, it almost sounds like a police knock. My husband gets up and opens the door. Trey comes bounding in the house. I am shocked, he usually doesn’t come back till Friday. He says hello and rushes past me. My husband and I both watch him as he walks to a closet where he stores his extra clothes and books.
“What are you doing?” I demand.
“I just need to grab a few things. Well, four things actually,” he says. He walks back into the living room carrying three pillows and heads to the front door.
“Wait, stop…WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
“Basically, I am going to live in a car,” he says smiling.
I look at my husband. He folds his arms, sighs and leans back against the wall. He is getting comfortable. He knows this is going to get weird. Either I am going to cry or yell or try to talk him into letting Trey move back in.
“What? I thought you already paid rent to stay somewhere this week. What happened?”
“I did pay. It’s about freedom really,” he says. Janis Joplin’s song goes through my mind; freedom is having nothing left to lose.
“Yeah, Simba and I are going to live in the car until I can get a place. No rules. I only sleep for short periods of time anyway. We got the cat in the trunk. That’s the only problem. Simba doesn’t want to leave it. But, I hate it and don’t want it in the car, so we cleared out the trunk for him. He keeps meowing, but we’ll figure something out.”
“Where are you going to park?” I ask. I can’t believe he’s serious.
“In the country so we don’t get robbed,” he says, walking out the door with the pillows. I look at Stan, he looks at floor and doesn’t say anything. Trey walks back in and heads to the closet. He grabs a comforter and starts to head out the door again.
“Umm, no. That was grandma’s comforter. Hell no, you aren’t taking it,” I say.
“Really? It’s cold.”
He walks back to the closet and returns the comforter. He grabs some sheets instead. I sit down in the chair and start laughing. I laugh from my gut. I snort laugh. He looks at me surprised.
“What are you laughing at?” he asks, smiling.
“You. Ok, good luck, son. I hope it works out.”
“Thanks, I love you,” he says, walking to the door again.
“And I love you,” I say. And I do, I love him. Every insane part of him.
I sit and I think. What was I doing when I was 18? I was living in a commune in Oklahoma. My parents had no idea where I was. I took off with a backpack and no plan. I had dreadlocks and crystals in my hair. I was high on acid and pretty much anything else. He has a hundred bucks, a cat, three pillows and sheet—he will do just fine.